Mag­i­cal Mar­cus

Striker keeps United’s Cham­pi­ons League hopes alive

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By John Percy

air bridges for the Cham­pi­ons League re­main po­ten­tially open for Leicester, af­ter a timely re­sponse to their Euro scep­tics.

This was the re­ac­tion Bren­dan Rodgers des­per­ately needed and sud­denly all those fears over a dra­matic late col­lapse ap­pear pre­ma­ture, with Leicester’s hopes of a top-four fin­ish still very much alive.

Af­ter a shock­ing ca­pit­u­la­tion at Bournemout­h on Sun­day, Rodgers was in dan­ger of wit­ness­ing a sea­son that promised so much de­scend­ing into the dampest of squibs. Yet on the day lock­down re­stric­tions were re­laxed in the city, the ten­sion was eased at the King Power Sta­dium.

Ay­oze Perez and sub­sti­tute De­marai Gray pro­vided the cru­cial goals to se­cure Rodgers only his sec­ond vic­tory since the restart and al­most cer­tainly end Sh­effield Unit­nan­des own hopes of gate­crash­ing the Euro­pean party.

There was some bad news, with James Mad­di­son, Ben Chilwell and Chris­tian Fuchs ruled out for the sea­son with in­juries, but Leicester will now feel rein­vig­o­rated ahead of their fi­nal two games.

Rodgers said: “It was an out­stand­ing team per­for­mance and that was us back for 90 min­utes. We needed that re­ac­tion, and we’ve got two games to cre­ate some more his­tory. At the start of the sea­son we said it would be a huge chal­lenge to get into Europe. It’s a phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ment to be in this po­si­tion.”

Leicester’s per­for­mance was a re­minder that they are in the top four for a rea­son, de­spite their re­cent strug­gles. They have oc­cu­pied fourth or above since mid-Septem­ber and have now com­pleted the dou­ble over Sh­effield United.

Man­ager Chris Wilder cut a frus­trated fig­ure in the tech­ni­cal area. His own hopes of end­ing a mag­nif­i­cent cam­paign with a place in Europe have surely ended af­ter this de­feat and they were strangely un­der­whelm­ing. But their sea­son has been a tri­umph, what­ever hap­pens now.

It was a day of many pos­i­tives for Leicester, who ap­pear to have cor­nered the mar­ket in young English left-backs. With Chilwell out for the cam­paign with a heel in­jury, Rodgers opted for Luke Thomas, the third-youngest debu­tant in club his­tory at 19 years and 36 days.

Thomas was out­stand­ing, pro­duc­ing an as­sured per­for­mance and pro­vid­ing the 29th-minute as­sist for Perez, who dis­patched a low shot into the bot­tom cor­ner.

United of­fered lit­tle as an at­tack­ing threat be­fore Gray com­pleted a rel­a­tively rou­tine win with the sec­ond goal, scor­ing from an an­gle.

Wilder said: “We were way off of it from the first minute to the 94th.”

Break­through: Ay­oze Perez opened the scor­ing in a 2-0 win that keeps Leicester’s Cham­pi­ons League hopes alive

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